Combating 2020 Fatigue

August 19, 2020 in ,
By Mike Camburn

We’re five months into working at home…eating at home, shopping at home, school at home, movies at home, socializing at home, and repeat. Are you feeling in a bit of a funk, lacking your usual energy and excitement, tired of waiting under a cloud of uncertainty? If you are operating at a less than optimal level, it is perfectly normal. You may be experiencing some symptoms of physical or mental fatigue. Tiredness is temporary, caused by a stressful day or sleepless night. Fatigue is the longer-term, cumulative effect of a string of these kinds of days and nights that begin to blur into one another. Common causes of fatigue read like a tag line for 2020 – stress, boredom, poor sleep, anxiety, grief, emotional exhaustion, and significant life events. Even positive life events and social change take a physical and mental toll on us. Increasing symptoms of fatigue may go unnoticed from day to day, like the dulling of a blade, which leads to my favorite Habit of Highly Effective People: #7. Sharpen the Saw. Stephen Covey begins the chapter with this story:

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

“What are you doing?” you ask.

“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”

“You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”

“Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”

“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing!”

Excerpted from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”

Sharpening the saw “means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you.” Only you know the impact that 2020 has had on you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is your responsibility to take the time you need to regain the balance, control, and energy in your life. It is up to you to determine the most effective methods for sharpening your saw. I’ve found the most self-destructive approach to the pandemic is waiting for it to be over. Hibernating until 2021 is not an option.

Overworking yourself is not a sign of strength and commitment. Likewise, acknowledging and requesting time to recharge, refresh, and refocus is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of incredible self-awareness and wisdom. If you normally take time off in summer, this year should be no different. Your normal activities and destinations may be restricted, but that does not limit your ability to find activities that are personally meaningful or discover new passions and talents.

I’ve been a remote FMP employee for over a decade and have faced many of the challenges that may be new to you. Here are a few quick tips to enhance your work-at-home/live-at-work experience, and help battle mental and physical fatigue during the workday:

  • perform your normal morning routine (change out of your pajamas!)
  • try to work a set schedule
  • take regular breaks to walk and stretch
  • stay hydrated
  • change your location for meetings
  • use your webcam as much as possible
  • step outside at the end of the day (don’t sleep at the office)

Check out our recent video blog, “How FMP Does Teleworking – An Interview with our Remote Employees”, where I join two other full-time remote FMP employees to share our personal teleworking experiences, suggestions for staying connected with teams, and insight into how to maintain a successful remote work arrangement and a healthy work/life balance.

What are your favorite activities to “sharpen the saw”? Let us know on LinkedIn!


Covey, Stephen. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, NY, Simon & Schuster, 1989.

Mike Camburn joined FMP as an intern in 2004 while working toward his degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology; he’s now a Managing Consultant. Mike has worked across most of FMP’s human capital practice areas, and he’s a “go-to” person for strategic planning, team building, and succession planning. Mike has partnered with almost every federal department, a variety of independent agencies, and several non-profits. Mike’s favorite activities to “sharpen the saw” during COVID are golfing and camping with his wife and three daughters.